Coco Ma is on track to write $2 million in 2022

Just five years after a career change from her fast food business in central Melbourne, Coco Ma is on track to write $2 million in gross commission in 2022.

Ms Ma runs her own business in the Keysborough area of south-east Melbourne in conjunction with the real estate agency platform Area Specialist.

“I entered the industry in November 2017 and after three months with a small agency I joined Area Specialist,” Ms Ma said.

“I saw a training video by Area Specialist founder Michael Choi on YouTube and thought, ‘I have to be part of this.’ I liked the brand, the marketing, the training and the office support.”

Ms Ma achieved $1.6 million in gross commission in 2021 working with one executive assistant and plans to expand to two office assistants to keep up with demand.

She said while Melbourne real estate prices have started to soften from the peaks of 2020 and 2021, the partnership with Area Specialist would help her navigate the highs and lows of the market.

While Ms Ma is relatively new to the industry, she brought a formidable array of life and business skills to her new career.

She arrived in Melbourne from China to study in 2003 and completed a Bachelor of Business at Victoria University, majoring in international trade and retail management, before attaining a masters degree in business.

She is fluent in English and Mandarin.

“I ran my own fast food business in central Melbourne for 13 years where you have to deal with all parts of the operation, from managing staff to negotiating the rent,” Ms Ma said.

“Rents were going up which was affecting profits and after so long in the fast food business I felt I needed a change.

“There is pressure in real estate but a different kind of pressure to what I did before. Having run my own business I was used to that kind of busy pace.”

The Area Specialist platform is designed to help real estate agents make the switch from the traditional franchise model, with the technology and training to grow their own business while minimising costs and risk.

Agents have a range of options for their partnership with Area Specialist including keeping all of their commission. Ms Ma works from an Area Specialist office so part of her commission goes to office costs.

The team members at Area Specialist help each other,” Ms Ma said.

“If I need advice Michael (Choi) is there to help too. He’s a big fan of modern technology and that’s not my thing. I’m a people person and the support I get helps me to be able to concentrate on that side of the business.”

Another key to Ms Ma’s success is the support of her husband Eddy Pham, an architect and fluent Vietnamese speaker.

“It helps at auction time on Saturdays because we have those language skills,” she said.

“He is an architect who knows renovations and he runs a small team that helps my vendors get their property ready for sale. 

“I think that is so important and makes us different from other agents. We want to help people make their houses look good so they can get the best possible price. I have a team providing support so I am blessed.

“Switching to real estate has been the best career move I could have made. It has been life-changing.”

Ms Ma said the most satisfying part of her new career is the opportunity to help others reach their goals.

“I don’t have my fast-food business anymore but I am happy to talk to people about the issues that they face in their own business because I have had that experience,” she said.

“I have 242 five-star reviews from customers on, the highest in the area. It’s great to have the satisfaction of helping people achieve success.”

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Noel Mengel

Noel Mengel is a freelance journalist and author based in Brisbane.

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